The word “curate,” lofty and once rarely spoken outside exhibition corridors or British parishes, has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting. In more print-centric times, the term of art was “edit” — as in a boutique edits its dress collections carefully. But now, among designers, disc jockeys, club promoters, bloggers and thrift-store owners, curate is code for “I have a discerning eye and great taste.”
From Alex Williams, On the Tip of Creative Tongues
Chris Anderson is the “curator of the TED Conference.” He could call himself anything – he owns TED. But he chooses to call himself the “curator.” Like in the quote above, he calls himself the “curator” because he has a “discerning eye and great taste.” The word curator fits, proven by the incredible reach and influence of the TED Talks that he and his team have selected.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this “curating” ability. It turns out that we all have to be something of a curator these days.
There was a time when the news we read was chosen by a group of people sitting around a table each day, deciding what goes where on the newspaper’s front page. These days I create my own “what to read” first experience from a few different web sites that I have curated into my own front page.
I thought of this curating mindset in reading Originals by Adam Grant. This book is a collection of historical stories, and summaries of multiple studies conducted by himself and others. He masterfully weaves it all into an understandable and very helpful book. It is a very good curated selection of items to include.
Malcolm Gladwell’s books are similar curated masterpieces.
In other words, someone out there needs to sift through all the studies, and stories, and insights, and put them into a manageable curated form.
I even consider myself something of a curator. I frequently re-use this line – “so many books, so little time.” I present synopses of 12 business books a year at the First Friday Book Synopsis. Just 12. (My colleague, Karl Krayer, presents an additiaonl 12). We skip a lot of books. A lot!!! of books.
Bob Morris, who writes a few posts on this blog, and multiple posts pretty much every day on his own blog, BobMorris.biz, writes reviews of many, many more books than we present. His output of reviews and articles seems almost superhuman. But as prolific as he is, he too is something of a curator. There are still more business books, many more, than he can get around too.
By the way, Bob has fairly recently started posting short posts with this phrase: “Snapshot of a business classic.” (Here’s a recent entry: The Balanced Scorecard: Snapshot of a Business “Classic”). This feature reminds us that there is great wisdom to be found in business books from earlier years.
I guess I am coming to this understanding. We are all in need of a new skill – the skill of curating. Like time management, and a host of soft skills, there will come a time when folks will be asked in a job interview, “tell me about your curating skills.”
Because there is so much to choose from – so many books, so many videos, so much software to learn; the list is endless – that we have to say no to so much to say yes to the smaller list that we can tackle.
We even have to develop the ability to curate well among the curators.
So, how are your curating skills?